There are an extraordinary number of books on spirituality. After reading most of them, one is left just with a wistful sigh—“If only I had a connection to God like that.” However, Dr. Geoffrion’s book gives us something more. It makes a rare contribution to the field because it is deeply grounded in real life. He does not write theoretically or romantically about the spiritual life, but focuses on the actual work of the Holy Spirit among those who know all too well the dust and grit realities of daily life.
As he writes in his introduction, “This book is not at all about supernatural visions and ecstasy, mountaintop experiences or great spiritual triumphs. It’s about learning how to hear and recognize the voice of the Spirit in the ordinary moments of daily life and to create a life that is one big ‘yes’ to God.”
There is the real issue. How do we say yes to God when there are so many daily life issues pressing for our attention?
After thirty-five years of service as a pastor, who has been keenly attentive to what God is doing in the lives of my parishioners, the spirituality that pierces into the ordinary in ordinary ways is what fascinates me the most. Frankly, I think it is also what the Bible cares about the most.
Our Scriptures are filled with stories of the most miraculous, awe-inspiring events, but by the time we make it to the epistles of the New Testament it is clear that the miracles were never the point of God’s sacred drama with us. Those were just a means of focusing our attention on the unpredictability of a world that has been pierced by the presence of the Holy. According to the apostles, the goal is to know how to live in holiness when there aren’t miracles. That’s why we’re called to live by faith. And nothing is more faithful in the eyes of God than an ordinary, unspectacular life of communion with the Holy Spirit who binds us into the life of the beloved son, Jesus Christ.
Near the end of his letter to the church in Philippi, which was one of Paul’s most mature end-of-life writings, he says:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8–9, nRSV)
The goal of spirituality is to live with “The God of peace,” and according to this text the way to find god with us is to keep on doing what we know to be true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable. In other words, do what we know to do.
After wasting far too many years of my life trying to pull off the spectacular, it has finally dawned on me that God loves routine acts of faithfulness. The spectacular and miraculous are up to divine intervention. Our calling is to keep wandering around the routine doing what we “have learned, and received, and heard. . . .” and it makes God so pleased to be with us along the way.
If spirituality cannot be found in the routine then it is just a distracting dream.
Who created routine? The God who made small things like electrons and huge things like planets spin around and around. Every year it’s the same routine—winter, spring, summer, fall. It’s creation’s way of saying, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
I once had an electrocardiogram test for my heart. After the technician put a paddle on my heart, I soon was looking at the monitor that showed my heart valves opening and closing, and then immediately opening and closing again. Not only had I had never seen this before, I had never even thought about my heart valves. It occurred to me that the difference between my life and death was that these valves had to quietly and faithfully keep opening and closing. Then I began to think about their rhythm of praise to the creator of the heart.
Most of us don’t wake up in the morning hoping our heart valves will keep working tirelessly. That’s because we don’t pay attention to the intricacies of the holy in our lives. But our hearts know how to praise God. They just keep doing what they know they were created to do.
- K. Chesterton has written that the sun rises every morning not just because of the laws of nature, but because God commands it to get up there and do it again. Like a child, God squeals with delight to see the same things happen again and again, and exclaims every morning, “Do it again.”
As the apostle Paul instructs us, do it again. Do whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable. Do it again, and then again and God will be with you.
So wake up choosing to be grateful for the day the Lord has made, and rejoice and be glad in it. Devote yourself to the holy words of the Bible before attending to the many other words you will encounter that day. Pray for your eyes to be open to the more subtle miracles you may encounter like the smile you find on a small down syndrome child who greets you in the elevator. Pray also for your ears to be open to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit who will urge you to bend down and say hello to this precious creation of God. As the day filled with meaningless committee meetings, emails, traffic jams, and hard phone calls tempts you think this is all there is, pray for the eyes and ears to be attentive to the holy landscape in which your life is actually lived.
There is more than our hassled culture wants you to see. But learning to see also the holy is the point of spirituality. This book will show you how.
M. Craig Barnes
President and Professor of Practical Theology Princeton Theological Seminary